It's OK to Need a Break Sometimes
I have a confession to make. I took a nap last week. Not a quick 20-minute lie down. An actual snuggled in the blankets, drooling on the pillow, sleeping soundly for almost two hours. When I woke up, I felt refreshed, pleasant, and ready to continue on with my day.
Sound familiar? No? Well, maybe it should.
There’s a general belief in the nonprofit world that our jobs are supposed to consume our lives, but not pay very well, and come with a lot of emotional baggage. I’m here to say that belief needs to end. Now. But while we’re working to change it, we still need to figure out how to take care of our mental and physical health.
This post is full of my own vulnerability, and I share it to offer support and helpful suggestions for giving yourself a break. This year has been HARD. Each of us has been impacted differently during the COVID-19 pandemic, the devastating disregard for Black lives, and the political battles consuming our relationships and media channels, and we are entitled to feel tired, worn out, stressed, *insert whatever emotion you might be feeling*, etc.
Personally, the post-partum anxiety I was diagnosed with last November, and was managing with a low dose of medication, soared to new heights, causing many sleepless nights, many moments with a racing heart and shortness of breath, many fears about the state of our world, and resulted in my irrational anger directed at my spouse. It was hard and stressful and some days I was thankful I didn’t have to go anywhere because the thought of being seen by another human was too overwhelming.
But I got through it. How did I do it? By being kind to myself and giving myself a break. Because as much as I might want to think I have superhero abilities, I don’t.
We each need to find what works for us to help us through stressful situations. What’s right for one person might not be right for another. And maybe you’re sick of hearing about tips for managing your stress. That’s ok. I recently lost a family member to suicide and have been seeing many friends and family members dealing with anxiety and depression, so this feels important for me to talk about.
When I was in the middle of a particularly anxious time in the spring, I actually did look up some tips for managing my anxiety and stress. Here’s what I found that helped me:
1. Take a time-out.
That nap I talked about earlier? That was my time out. I love what I do and sometimes I need a little break. That’s ok. Find what calms you and use that when you need a break. Maybe it’s yoga or listening to music or a walk around the block or simply watching Netflix. All great options.
2. Limit alcohol and caffeine.
Listen, I love coffee. But it can send me over the edge if I have too much. Apparently alcohol and caffeine can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks. I’m not saying you need to give it up completely, but if you’re feeling super stressed, stick with one cup or take a break. Maybe eat some dark chocolate instead.
3. Accept that you cannot control everything.
Whew! That one is hard for me. But it has helped. I take it a step further and ask what CAN I do. Finding solutions that work for you in whatever situation you are in is the key.
4. Learn what triggers your anxiety.
Are you being triggered by something avoidable? Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
I think my last point is the most important one:
5. Talk to someone.
Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help. There’s no shame in getting help.
I’ve started to be open about my struggle with postpartum anxiety because I didn’t even know it existed before I finally went to the doctor about it. I truly believe that there is no point in feeling terrible if there is something you can do to help it. We only get one life and we deserve to live it well. I am by no means a mental health professional and these suggestions are just things that have worked for me. If you feel that you are struggling more than normal, please seek professional help.
Lastly, all my love goes out to the Black members of our community. Because as stressful as this has been on so many of us, the added layer of trauma being experienced by Black individuals is even more. Here are several links I have come across that are specific to the mental health of Black individuals:
Sending you all love and positivity as we continue our journey toward making an impact in our communities and taking care of ourselves.